Infos on pastoralism

What is pastoralism?

Pastoralism is a subsistence pattern in which people make their living by tending herds of large animals. The species of animals vary with the region of the world, but they are all domesticated herbivores that normally live in herds and eat grasses or other abundant plant foods.
Horses are the preferred species by most pastoralists in Mongolia and elsewhere in Central Asia. In East Africa, it is primarily cattle. In the mountainous regions of Southwest Asia, it is mainly sheep and goats. In the more arid lowland areas of the Southwest Asia and North and East Africa it is often camels. Among the Saami people (or Lapps) of northern Scandinavia, it is reindeer.

Forms of pastoralism

There are essentially two forms of pastoralism. They are known as nomadism and transhumance. Pastoral nomads follow a seasonal migratory pattern that can vary from year to year. The timing and destinations of migrations are determined primarily by the needs of the herd animals for water and fodder. These nomadic societies do not create permanent settlements, but rather they live in tents or other relatively easily constructed dwellings the year round. Pastoral nomads are usually self-sufficient in terms of food and most other necessities. Transhumance pastoralists click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced follow a cyclical pattern of migrations that usually take them to cool highland valleys in the summer and warmer lowland valleys in the winter. This is seasonal migration between the same two locations in which they have regular encampments or stable villages often with permanent houses. Transhumance pastoralists usually depend somewhat less on their animals for food than do nomadic ones. They often do small scale vegetable farming at their summer encampments. They also are more likely to trade their animals in town markets for grain and other things that they do not produce themselves.
Pastoralism is most often an adaptation to semi-arid open country in which farming can not be easily sustained without importing irrigation water from great distances. Pastoralism is usually the optimal subsistence pattern in these areas because it allows considerable independence from any particular local environment. When there is a drought, pastoralists disperse their herds or move them to new areas. Farmers rarely have these options. They suffer crop failure and starvation in the same situation. A pastoral subsistence pattern reduces the risk when there is an irregular climatic pattern. This is especially true of nomadic pastoralism.